A Staten Island tavern was served a cease and desist order from the State Liquor Authority on Saturday night after declaring itself an "Autonomous Zone" and continuing to operate in violation of the state's orange zone restrictions, which prohibit indoor dining.
Mac's Public House, located on Lincoln Avenue near the northern edge of the island's COVID-19 orange zone, has been openly defying Governor Andrew Cuomo's recent tightening of restrictions intended to slow the spread of the virus. After the borough's positive testing rate rose to 4.15% last week, Cuomo designated the south part of the island an orange zone, with the northern part of Staten Island declared a precautionary yellow zone. Cuomo also ordered the creation of a temporary emergency facility at the South Shore Psychiatric Center in order to cope with anticipated overflow from local hospitals.
Under the state's micro-cluster orange zone restrictions, indoor dining is prohibited and outdoor dining is limited to tables of four customers or fewer. Before the restrictions went into effect on Wednesday, Mac's proprietors Keith McAlarney and Danny Presti announced they would not be complying, and declared their establishment an "Autonomous Zone" that would refuse to abide by any "rules and regulations" issued by Cuomo or Mayor Bill de Blasio.
On Tuesday night, Presti said in a video shared on YouTube that the pub was issued a $15,000 fine from the NYC Sheriff's Office for violating a state order that restaurants close at 10 p.m. (He later said the Sheriff had "voided" that fine and is instead issuing $1,000 fines on a daily basis.)
McAlarney accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of "bullying tactics" for ordering the NYC Sheriff to enforce restrictions, and vowed to stay open. "I may not win this war or this battle, I might lose my establishment, but I'm going to be able to go home to my kids and my head is gonna be held up high."
According to Presti, officers with the sheriff's department told him that Mac's provocative "Autonomous Zone" signage "attracted the attention of the mayor," who ordered the sheriff to "put a stop" to the Autonomous Zone.
The State Liquor Authority voted to suspend Mac's liquor license on November 27th. Neither the NYC Sheriff's Office nor the State Liquor Authority responded to requests for more information about the enforcement actions.
In a video posted on Friday, Presti explained that the bar would not be paying any of the fines, and maintained that "we are still doing things in a safe way and we're still open." Directly behind him, a bartender can be seen pulling her mask down to converse with someone offscreen.
In an attempt to work around the lack of a liquor license, Presti announced that Mac's would offer customers free food and beverages, for a suggested donation. Presti also appealed to the NYC Sheriff to "stop oppressing citizens," and in a montage set to Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth," Presti accused officers with the sheriff's department of "playing the role of foot soldiers dedicated to new age dictators in the world's greatest city."
The NY Post visited Mac's on Saturday and reported that it "was operating like it was 2019, as a small group of patrons enjoyed cocktails inside the bar —on the house." One visitor told the tabloid, “I totally support what [McAlarney] is doing. I don’t support the tyrannical nonsense they have in place. I gave them $100 for this water. They didn’t charge me. I gave it to support them.”
On Saturday night, the sheriff returned along with a representative with the State Liquor Authority, who taped the cease and desist notice to Mac's window after McAlarney refused to accept the paperwork.
Mac's is celebrating its one year anniversary today. A man who answered the phone at Mac's on Sunday declined to comment.